By: Global CEO Vanella Jackson, Hall & Partners
What do we mean by a brand icon and how do brands achieve this status? Becoming a brand icon is more than just being instantly recognisable and well known. It is about acquiring a universally recognised uniqueness and specialness; something that lives in everyone’s shared understanding and collective consciousness.
Few brands reach an iconic status. Overall, they are not important enough. They do not have the ability to stir the passions and command unfading loyalty.
To give you an example, Dr Martens is a fantastic brand. You could say it has reached the dizzy heights of a brand icon. How has it earnt this place in people’s hearts? Dr Martens is a great example of a brand that has stuck to what it originally set out to do; it has always been about delivering tradition and authenticity.
However, brand icons cannot afford to stand still. They need to keep moving and keep innovating. It is far too easy for brands to think they have made it; to think they have become iconic but in doing so, failing to realise that they remain vulnerable to change.
The best icons constantly refresh within the boundaries of what makes them iconic, what got them there in the first place.
This is what Dr Marten’s has done, masterfully. It has managed to refresh constantly what they are about to stay relevant.
Its future will depend on how well it continues to adapt and reinvent its interpretation of that traditional authenticity to meet new consumer needs and tastes.
Right now, those needs are about what consumers are going to value coming out of this post-pandemic period of craziness that we’ve all been living in. This is the time when we will see the fastest shift and change in what consumers need and want.
The critical question for any brand icon wishing to remain fresh and relevant is, what are consumers going to want next? We’re seeing consumer values shifting quite considerably at the moment.
One of the things that is currently emerging is seeing brands becoming more conscious and behaving more responsibly. Dr Martens is a brand that is already ahead of curve here which is why it’s perhaps no surprise to see this iconic British brand appear at no.5 in this year’s inaugural list of China’s top 100 most conscious brands, recently published by Hall & Partners and Wolff Olins.
It has always championed sustainability and ethical working practices, so this will likely chime well with where consumers are moving to and helping them stay on trend.
As an iconic brand, it has been very careful to ensure that its product development and marketing is personalised and very targeted, without compromising the quality of the product.
It has stuck to its guns with regards to quality – a key characteristic of an iconic brand. And through personalisation the familiar style of the product hasn’t shown itself to be the same to everybody. For example, launching a range for younger children, creating boots in fantastic fashion colours and with celebrity endorsements. This enables it to have many faces and create multiple experiences.
Dr Martens’ sales figures have continued to rise despite the impact of Covid-related restrictions on its high-street stores. The company has been selling more of its products directly to consumers, allowing it to improve the way it talks about its brand and in doing so, collect valuable consumer data.
This is a trend that’s been accelerated throughout the current pandemic. It gives any iconic brand an opportunity to have a more one-to-one relationship with its customers and understand more about who and what their interests are. That opportunity to get the right product, perfectly tailored and personalised to an individual, is only going to grow as ecommerce continues to flourish. Any brand that isn’t looking at that is going to miss the boat.
It takes single minded ambition and vision to become a successful iconic brand, but it takes a lot more to stay there.